Foremost lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Aare Afe Babalola, has said the federal government would fail if it goes ahead to challenge the legality of Amotekun, the South-western security initiative recently launched by governors in the region.
Babalola, who spoke to journalists Sunday in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti state capital, said the idea was accommodated and given vent in the 1999 constitution as well as those before it.
His comment came against the backdrop of the federal government’s position that the security outfit was unconstitutional.
The position was made by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), who said he was not consulted by the governors before the idea was initiated.
Taking on the AGF, the legal luminary said, what the governors did was simply to respond to the yawning security gaps in the region.
Babalola, who is the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, also said the initiative became desirable since the centralised police system had failed to ensure the safety of lives and property of people in the region.
The leading lawyer also recalled the spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen/farmers clashes and other security challenges which prompted the formation of the security outfit, saying it was put in place to mitigate and arrest the rising security challenges in the geo-political zone.
He said: “The Amotekun outfit is an protective and supportive outfit established by the governors of the South-west. It has its roots in the 1999 Constitution and the previous constitutions before it – 1960, 1963.
“Section 24 of the constitution provides that ‘it shall be the duty of every citizen to make positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides’. Well-being means security of life and property etc. How many Nigerians realise that they have a duty to assist and to protect the interest of the community and themselves?
“And Section 40 goes further that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests’.
“When you put these two together, it shows that all of us have the duty to associate; whether as Yoruba people or as state people, to ensure that lives and properties are safe. The Amotekun outfit has its roots in the constitution. It is constitutional, it is legal and proper.”
Rather than condemning it, Babalola said the federal government should laud and key into it instead of trying to kill the laudable initiative, saying “it should immediately thank them for what they are doing.
“If this outfit had been established about 10 years ago, we would not have these issues of kidnapping, killing and other security challenges.
“We won’t have those who go to the farms to kill people because they would be fished out. That is why the constitution says that such outfit should report to the police.
“What I have just said is that it is to support the police, support the government in their duty to ensure that there is peace, there is safety of property, safety of lives. It is a good idea. It is belated but it is lawful and constitutional.
“All that the AGF said is that Article 45 of the constitution, Second Schedule, gives to the federal government the exclusive power to manage the police, he did not say that sections 20, 40 and 45 are abrogated. They cannot abrogate it.
“The sections I have quoted are superior to the schedule he is talking about and in any event, the governors have not set up a parallel police outfit, what they have done is to set up a supportive and protective organ to assist the police and in their communiqué, they said it would report to the police.
“The law says you can join together in association to assist the police. How can the police or any government by angry about this? In my opinion, the act has been done, Amotekun had been launched, let them go on.
“What the state governors have done is legal, so why should they bother? Let them (FG) try to go to court. They will meet the governors there. All what they would have to do is to show them sections 24, 40, 45 of the 1999 constitution.
“It is a case that must fail if they go to court. They have not set up a parallel police outfit. No. the constitution says it is your duty to protect the interest of yourself and others and join together in doing so. So simple! The case will be so easy to win,” Babalola further submitted.